Trauma, stress, grief, loss, and separation among older adults in prison: the protective role of coping resources on physical and mental well-being


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Recent evidence suggests that older adults in prison experience a high level of adverse life experiences that can be categorized as trauma, stress, grief and loss. However, there is a dearth of research that examines how older adults’ use of physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual coping resources influence their physical and mental well-being. The current study uses a cross-sectional correlational design and a sample of 667 adults aged 50 and older in a northeastern state prison system. Data were collected using a mailed survey that included the Life Stressors Checklist-Revised, the Coping Resources Inventory, and Health-Related Quality of Life Survey to measure the variables of central interest. The majority (70%) of the sample reported some type of traumatic and stressful life experiences that included childhood and/or adult exposure to violence, unexpected and expected loss of a loved one, family separation, or being diagnosed with a serious physical or mental illness. Path analysis results produced a well-fitting model and revealed that five dimensions of coping resources (physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual) demonstrate a protective affect on the relationship between cumulative, traumatic and stressful life experiences and well-being among older adults in prison. These findings suggest that the lifetime experiences of multiple types of trauma, stress, grief, separation, and loss are common among older adults in prison and place them at risk for later-life physical and mental decline. Multidimensional coping strategies that address physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual domains are promising intervention techniques that can improve well-being among older adults in prison.

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